Rev. Gates – Stay Out of These Chain Stores

Rev Gates

For more about Rev. J.M. Gates click here.

The 1920s and 1930s witnessed anti-chain store movement, a middle class-driven localist, populist, and anti-monopolist movement that presages localist stances in the early 21st Century. The rapid spread of A&P Stores inspired the movement. Gaining its greatest momentum during the early years of the Great Depression, the anti-chain store advocates called for, with success in several states, additional taxes on chain stores. They bemoaned how each downtown appeared to house the same stores as if created by cookie cutters.[1] The anti-chain store advocates ranged from Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis to popular African-American recording preacher, Rev. J.M. Gates. Columbia Records, which depended on the chain stores for retail sales, suppressed Rev. Gates’ “Good Bye to Chain Stores, Parts 1 and 2” record for sixty years. Rev. Gates was the second most popular such recording artist of his time after Aretha Franklin’s father.

William K. Henderson, owner of KWKH radio in Shreveport, Louisiana used his airways to attack the chain stores. The emotion-laden reasoning of Henderson’s 1930 congressional testimony would resonate well more than 80 years later:

We have sought to portray the iniquities attendant with short weights and inferior quality of merchandise sold by the chain store. We have attempted to bring to light the ruinous and devastating effect of sending the profits of business out of our local communities to a common center, Wall Street. We have appealed to the fathers and mothers who entertain the fond hope of their children becoming prosperous business leaders-to awaken to a realization of the dangers of the chain stores’ closing this door of opportunity. We have insisted that the payment of starvation wages, such as the chain-store system fosters, must be eradicated . . . . We have importuned those who labor to join in striking down the chain system in every form and character, before it enslaves the masses and holds them prisoners of an economic system which will destroy every vestige of individual initiative and personal incentive to progress.

[1] Daniel Scroop, “The Anti-Chain Store Movement and the Politics of Consumption” American Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Dec., 2008), pp. 925-949; Richard C. Schragger, “The Anti-Chain Store Movement, Localist Ideology, and the Remnants of the Progressive Constitution, 1920-1940” Iowa Law Review v. 90-3 (2005), pp. 1011-1094; David J. Hess, Localist Movements in a Global Economy: Sustainability, Justice, and Urban Development in the United States (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013), pp. 56-57, 113-133; Carl J. Ryant, “The South and the Movement Against Chain Stores” Journal of Southern History, Vol. 39, No. 2 (May, 1973), pp. 207-222.

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